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marfa big bend day 5

Day 5
Destination: Marfa, then Big Bend
Mileage: ~98 miles
Time: ~2 hours
Temperature: 60/95F (Low/High)
*Prepare for wind. This is not an understatement.*

How could I possibly describe Marfa and Big Bend together? They were two completely contrast places. One had electrical outlets and Wi-Fi at the palm of your hand, the other had Mexican Black Bears and mountain lions. Well, I guess I can start off with the morning in Marfa.

Morning in Marfa means…

  • Free coffee in the lobby of El Cosmico, stock up your body.
  • Electrical outlets and Wi-Fi. So, Instagram and charge all of your shit.
  • Taking a shower. Maybe do this first before coffee or whatever, it’s your life.
  • Packing up and timing yourself. We started timing ourselves breaking down and setting up our tent to see our progress. Camping makes you do crazy things like time yourself setting up a tent. It took us 10 minutes to break down on this day.
  • Having breakfast at Squeeze Marfa. Every out-of-towner will be there as well.
  • Going to the Chinati Foundation. If you have the time, do the tour because without the tour…you don’t get to see much. My favorite was the camera obscura though, it was at the Marfa Ice Plant. The installation was called 100 North Nevill Street. It was REALLY COOL. Art can be cool.
Breaking rules in Marfa, TX

Making Hannah break rules in Marfa, TX for the sake of (my) art

Glamp Curry, The Window, & Shiner Ruby Red

Glamp Curry, The Window, & Shiner Ruby Red

Afternoon in Big Bend means…

  • Paying an entrance fee at the front of the entrance and driving to Chisos Basin Campground and paying a campsite fee.
  • Discovering that your neighbor is a classical guitarist.
  • Finding another Prius, finally!!! And of course he brought his bike.
  • Chatting with Reggie, our National Park ranger, who definitely told us to take out our camera phone if we saw a bear. My homie.
  • Cooking curry for dinner because that’s glamp.
  • Hiking the Non-GMO Window Trail to “The Window” and guessing how far the drop-off could be. PRO Tip: It took us less than 2 hours and we suggest going at around 6:30pm if you don’t want the sun to hit you.
  • PRO PRO Tip: Have a cold beer and/or chocolate waiting for you back at your campsite. After a hike, it’s the best reward.
  • Preparing (but not enough) for a night in Big Bend Chisos Basin Campground.
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fort davis and marfa

Day 4
Destination: Fort Davis, then Marfa
Mileage: ~195 miles + ~36 miles
Time: ~3 hours + ~.75 hours
Temperature: 60/94 (Low/High)

[This isn’t like the other posts, not many PROTips to give except to go to McDonald Observatory!]

We woke up that morning in El Paso struggling to leave. It felt homey, there was coffee ready for us, and Whataburger was comfortably around the corner. We kind of liked El Paso, but when we started driving into Davis Mountains, I was like, “El—what?” The Davis Mountains are beautiful, the weather was perfect, and I was playing Bon Iver in the car (obviously). Located in the Davis Mountains? The McDonald Observatory.

mcdonald_collage

And…I didn’t tell Hannah that it was actually The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory, but she stood in awe of the massive telescopes (that were founded by some Longhorn and Penn State alum). [ICYMI: Hannah is actually a current Aggie. Why? Idk.]

These observatories are really impressive, and I wish that we could have gone through the [2-hour tour] that let you see the facilities. We did the self-guided tour, watched the crazy, cheesey outdated videos and wandered around where we were allowed. No burnt orange shirt or gear could make me feel more proud of the school I graduated from than this observatory. It might be more inspiring than the Tower!

Another-Me wondered if I should have studied aerospace engineering so that I could have access to resources like this…and then I reminded myself of all of the theories that my brain can’t grasp. I like stars, but I’m better with people. Another life, maybe.

davis_crop

After playing outside of the Davis Mountains and “star-gazing,” it was time to go to Marfa, and I didn’t know what to expect. You hear so much stuff about Marfa and you know what? Whatever you hear, it’s nothing compared to when you’re actually there. It’s Bizarro World.
Our people-watching list goes a little something like this:

  • A boy with a pinwheel hat
  • The mom-crew that wore tutu’s
  • Jess and Ashley as we affectionately called them- the girls who rented separate trailers and have probably never been camping
  • The bachelor party crew
  • The retired crew who came for Marfa lights
  • The very real vagabonds
  • The hipsters (of course)
  • The couple who probably share the same wardrobe and wore socks and sandals
  • The lone artist man
  • The longhorns ( I saw a ton of people who were repping UT. Figures.)
  • Us

The Get Go Grocery in Marfa is cool, and I think the only grocery store around (?). It felt like Quickie Pickie in Austin sans a restaurant part and beer-on-tap (something I miss very much). That night, we grabbed a pack of Shiner Ruby Redbird, some chips & salsa, and headed back to camp. A campnight in Marfa seemed pretty tame… a ‘wild’ tabby cat to greet us in the next morning.

Our humble 'Bode

Our humble ‘Bode. Glamp.

el paso west texas notes

Day 3
Destination: El Paso
Mileage: ~110 miles
Time: ~1.5 hours
Temperature: 70/95F (Low/High)

So after two nights of camping, we drove right into our first AirBnB experience.
It’s not because we were tired of camping, and as I type this, I actually miss it (a lot). We didn’t know where we could camp in El Paso…and we really wanted to try AirBnB. It seemed pretty timely as they just relaunched their brand and website. Here are a few notes:

Notes about El Paso:

  • It’s stress city. It’s not, but the roads are KIND of stressful. There is a bunch of construction/expansion, GoogleMaps wasn’t updated and it just took us in circles.
  • Montana Ave. is the equivalent of FM 1960/Hwy 6. Multiple lanes, a median, and cars racing in both directions. Hannah and I were really stressed out getting into El Paso. Mostly Hannah, bless her.
  • Most important note: Go to a Chihuahua Minor League Baseball game. It was the most fun baseball game I had ever been to. Maybe it was because their mascot is named “Chico,” or I was just delirious. But it was a lot of fun, and I don’t even like baseball.
  • We went through border patrol. Because well, we were real close to the border.

el paso chihuahua

Notes about AirBnb:

  • I loved it! My first AirBnb experience couldn’t have been better. Our hosts were so, so accommodating, knowledgeable, and friendly. I loved them the minute we met them.
  • It’s easy. I booked from my car the day before we were going to arrive in El Paso, and it was reasonably priced.
  • I felt at home. Maybe it was because any home-esque environment made me feel like home at that point, but I think it was most definitely because of our hosts. I can’t rave about them enough. THEY HAD COFFEE SET OUT IN THE MORNING. Bless you guys, Jonathan and Martin.

AirBnB edit.jpg

If you would like to opt-out, you may do so now because I’m going to commentate on this day as it was the most stressful day of our trip. Getting lost without a notion of the right direction- it puts a lot of pressure, and tests your relationship with whoever you’re with. Are you going to keep it together? Lose it? Go off on each other? This is when you find out.

I remember that I was frustrated. I wanted to resolve this sense of “lost” immediately and alleviate the stress that Hannah was already feeling. GoogleMaps was a piece of crap, and I wished that geography class taught us more about reading maps. What did I draw from this? Find a paper map, because GoogleMaps is not always reliable. Also, bless that this moment wasn’t fatal to our friendship. I knew it was coming, SOMETHING always happens during a road trip that could make it or break it. We made it.

Soooooo within all of that, we had a bit of car trouble. This was resolved (sort of) with the help of our AirBnb hosts and a lovely mechanic with the name Orvil. Despite the stress and realization of how far from home we really were- the people we came across this day were the cream-of-the-crop, great people.

Lucky maybe, but mostly #blessed.

day 2 guadalupe mountains national Day 2
Destination: Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Mileage: ~145 miles
Time: ~3 hours
Temperature: 60/99F (Low/High)
*Stopped in Pecos for water/gas/Walmart

Here’s a disclaimer: I’ve been writing these out of order, so there isn’t that much consistency. Yay me!

IMG_0274

I’ve been thinking about it, and I think maybe Guadalupe Mountains National Park was my favorite place on this trip. It was really beautiful, especially the morning. I saw a snake on my way to the bathroom, which wasn’t so beautiful but at least he was chill. I had a great sleep that night, and the view in the morning was the best. I don’t know, every place was different but I definitely want to come back here.

Look. At. This. View.

labeled_guad.jpg

Sidebar: Pecos is kind of the worst, BUT they have Walmart and it’s the closest city (in Texas) that has things you may need. They also have Dairy Queen, but obviously nothing matches Whataburger.

Some Tidbits and PROTips for Guadalupe Mtns. National Park:

  • El Capitan looks awesome. I want to come back and hike the full trail, we only did maybe a third of it?
  • The campgrounds are pretty posh. Numbered and each place has their own area. Tent site #14 was our’s and it was the best spot. There aren’t any showers though so…
  • Check your bathroom amenities. So on the note of bathrooms, check them! Meaning…check if they have showers, we didn’t know and we walked back and forth to each restroom to find out that we didn’t have showers.
  • There are big black raven/hawk-like looking birds. Just saying.
  • Smith Spring Trail is totally worth it!! There is a spring despite how bleak and dry it looks!!
  • If no one has told you, they should have: keep your food in your car. Let’s not attract bears to the campsite, capiche?
smith trail thu texas

Smith Spring Trail

monahans journal entry

Day 1
Destination: Monahans Sandhill State Park
Mileage: ~484 miles
Time: ~7 hours
Temperature: 70/102F (Low/High)

Every day, I [tried to] keep a journal entry about the trip. Some entries have drawings, some do not. All of them have random notes that may not even make sense to me as I look back at it. I just thought I would share it with you guys. A window into my thought process, what I wanted to remember, and what I needed to get done the next day.

monahanscollage.jpg

The drive wasn’t bad, but it was hot, sandy, and miserable the first day. We woke up feeling sandier than the night before.

“Going poop in a place you don’t know sucks.” -That’s right, I said it (it’s in my notebook so I thought I would address it). I know everyone else is thinking it because it just is!

There were no shower curtains, but at least no one else was at the park.
On the note of showers: never take advantage of showers. Wow, feeling clean can change your mood instantly.
Arturo was the best state park ranger we came to encounter on our trip. He was knowledgeable, let us borrow sand disks fo’ free, and was an all around cool dude. A true wilderness explorer.

PRO Tips for Monahans Sandhill State Park:

  • Rent sand disks, they are worth it. Ask about wax too because wax = speedy speed sand disks. This is my #1 PRO tip. It’s so much fun.
  • Anchor your tent. Apparently there are sandbags around the park to help you anchor your tent- we didn’t see any…but maybe State Park Ranger Michael was lying to us. ANYWAY, make sure it’s anchored before it blows away like our’s did the first time.
  • Bag your phone. If you take it with you up the dunes. You don’t want fine sand in your phone because that could mess it up…right?
  • Wear sunblock. It’s sunny. The fine sand are like prisms that “can burn your butt if you don’t cover it with sunblock.” Arturo’s words, not mine.

 

west texas cover

After being away from a computer for 7 days, I have had a lot to catch up on and write.
I don’t know if you know this, but I just came back from a 6-day camping trip that features the West Texas desert.

Yes, I did stay at El Cosmico (which doesn’t count as camping at all).
Yes, I saw El Capitan.
And yes, I went to a Minor League baseball game where their mascot is the chihuahua.
And! I had my first AirBnB experience!

More on all of these as they will all get their own descriptive, detailed posts. Today, today we talk about the beginning, which I’m calling Day 0.

This day includes: packing for the trip, and giving you a lowdown of what the next few posts will look like.

We had no idea what to expect, here are some PRO tips and road trip essentials:

  • Make a list for your groceries, your supplies [esp. your tech stuff], your clothes, etc. So you can keep track, so you don’t lose anything, and you know what’s dirty/clean. (Pack a “dirty clothes” bag too!!)
  • Make breakfast tacos on Day 0. I know I’ve pushed this tip since my Colorado/New Mexico road trip, but it really helps for those lazy mornings.
  • COFFEE DRINKERS. I love to grind my own coffee beans right before I pour the water, but it’s a lot easier when I just did it all on Day 0, and then brought along the ground coffee beans for the next days. Also, don’t ever underestimate bringing your awesome coffee, s/o to Cuvée. My homies.
  • Over-packers. Because this is me sometimes. Pack all the stuff you [think you] want, then break it down and eliminate. There is a very high chance that you won’t wear everything. I don’t know if I’ll ever get this just right, but I’m getting there.
  • Music-listeners. Be well-equipped and well-supplied for your trip. Make your playlists offline, burn cd’s, add more tracks to your iTunes. I love my playlists and listened to them 20 times over, but I wish I made more offline because I barely had cell service!
  • Weekenders. If you are camping on a weekend, might I suggest booking your campsite beforehand? Because Hannah and I definitely didn’t realize this and had no place to stay on Saturday. We had to go drive home because of it. More on that later.

I think this is what I remember and what I can say about packing and Day 0.

The next few days will feature each place we stopped at which include: Monahans Sandhill State Park, Pecos, Guadalupe Mountain National Park, El Paso, Fort Davis, Marfa, Marathon, Big Bend National Park, and a touch of Balmorhea. I’ll have pictures and PRO Tips, the typical travel post format. Also included with no extra charge: commentary on how Hannah and I felt and dumb things we came up with, you’ll see.

Until next time,
Thu